Hospitalizations from Energy Drinks Double

Energy drink companies have taken yet another blow, after over a year in the negative spotlight. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a report citing energy drinks as “a continuing public health concern.” The report showed that the number of annual hospital visits involving energy drinks—such as Monster, Red Bull or 5-Hour Energy—doubled between 2007 and 2011 and increased almost tenfold since 2005.

The data for 2011, the most recent available from SAMHSA—a government behavioral health agency—shows that an energy drink was the primary cause or a contributing factor of 20,783 reported emergency room visits. Of this, 58 percent involved the energy drink alone while the rest included other drugs as well.

The majority of patients were male, and 18-to-25-year-olds accounted for the largest number of patients. Excessive caffeine consumption can cause headaches, heart attacks, insomnia, anxiety and seizures. But these drinks have also been linked to deaths. In 2012, the FDA released data showing that 5-Hour Energy was associated with 13 fatalities and Monster Energy was involved in five deaths since 2009. Mind you, that does not necessarily mean the energy drinks were the exact cause of death.

Consumers may not realize just how much caffeine their energy drink contains. Energy drinks list the amount of caffeine in each drink, but are not required to disclose the amount of guarana—a plant with concentrated caffeine. Additional ingredients such as D-glucuronolactone may also contribute to a stronger effect than anticipated.

The SAMHSA report also stated that an increasing number of older patients were experiencing complications from energy drinks. Interactions with their other medications could cause these complications. Excessive caffeine consumption is also associated with increased heart rate and blood pressure. Therefore, people with high blood pressure and heart disease should avoid caffeinated beverages especially energy drinks since the amount of caffeine can be unknown.

Caffeine intake is also associated with poor sleeping habits. Most people drink caffeine to alleviate fatigue throughout the day which can cause difficulty falling asleep at night. Therefore, you wake up fatigued and need coffee to get through the day, it easy to see how this can develop into an unwanted cycle of high caffeine intake and sleeplessness. Sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain, so watching your caffeine intake and sleep cycle is especially important to those trying to lose weight.

Another negative aspect of energy drinks is that they tend to be loaded with sugar. In the 1800, the average person consumed 18 pounds of sugar per year. In 2009, more than 50 percent of all Americans consume one-half pound of sugar PER DAY—translating to a whopping 180 pounds of sugar per year! This excess intake of sugar can lead to weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and stress on the liver to metabolize fructose (the main sugar in processed foods/beverages).

Heal n Cure’s Registered Dietitian and Lifestyle Educator has compiled a list  of the most commonly consumed caffeinated drinks. You can see how the large amounts of sugar and caffeine can add up quickly. Next time you are reaching for your favorite sugar laden beverage ask yourself first, is it worth it?

Grams of sugar
Grams of sugar converted into teaspoons
Caffeine content
Coffee, black
8 oz
0 g
107.5 mg
Starbucks Double Shot
6.5 oz
17 g
4.25 teaspoons
130 mg
Monster Energy Drink
16 oz
24 oz
54 g
81 g
13.5 teaspoons
20 teaspoons
160 mg
240 mg
5 hour energy
2 oz
0 g
0 *sweetened with Splenda
138 mg
(extra strength 207 mg)
Red bull
27 g
6.7 teaspoons
80 mg
Coca Cola
12 oz
39 g
9.7 teaspoons
34 mg
Mountain Dew
12 oz
47 g
11.7 teaspoons
54 mg